This isn’t a self-aggrandizing blog post. The past 12 months have been pretty good. We’ve gotten some placement for a song or two, we’re looking dead-on for a new release this year, one of our major projects (Starspawn) is on the front burner after a hiatus, and even the non-music stuff is perking along. But it has me wondering a lot as to how success is measured.
The internet and blogosphere are full of articles regarding the mathematics of success. And the ones that are often enthusiastically pointed to… the Ted talks, the friend-to-friend Facebook shares, and the Youtube celebrities… these people are generally very deliberate in pointing out how much failure, misstep, and falling short is integral to the process. I appreciate the honesty in that. It’s exceedingly rare to win out of the gate, and yes, the road to any feat, project end, or discovery is often paved with a lot of time, sweat, energy, and frustration. So yeah, I am glad that this is acknowledged.
You know what these people all have in common, these folks talking about how important failure is?
They’re all successful.
Look. I get it. I get all the clichés. Anything worth it is worth fighting for. Anything good is hard. You’ll never succeed if you quit when it gets tough. Hey, I have been trying to make a name in an industry known for exceedingly low odds of payout for the past 20+ years. I’m optimistic, not stupid.
But let’s be honest. We live in an era of RESULTS. And even though the people that we often venerate are telling us how important failure is, how often do we really get the freedom to crash and burn without losing something in the process? A job, or a relationship, or a connection, or an opportunity? Failure sucks. Even if it wasn’t our actions that led to it. Guilt by association is enough to make us never want to talk about it even with our closest friends and family. And when you’re in the middle of failure? No one wants to hear about it.
So yeah. List all the failures you’ve had on your resume and see if it gets you a callback. Boldly talk about how many planes you have crashed and see if anyone gives you another shot in the pilot’s chair. Celebrate your messes and count how many people celebrate them with you. And certainly see if anyone wants to hear from the likes of you as to how important failure has been in your life.
Look past the stage, the green room, the cameras, the first-class plane tickets, and the speaking fees. Look beyond the pretty, well-dressed people who can speak of the virtue of failure as a privilege of their victories. Their wins are real. I don’t begrudge that.
But they are not the only people who understand that failure is part and parcel of the gig. For every big-ticket success story, there’s a thousand stories that go unheard. ALL of them have elements of struggle, setback, and disappointment. Most of them aren’t remarkable or spectacular. Still, I wonder how many of these stories are worthy of Ted talks, regardless of the eventual outcomes.
But maybe the real emotional core isn’t about ‘failure’.
Maybe the difference is in how we define success. And if we’re willing to listen to those who lack the blessing of society on the topic.